The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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   Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XV

                                                  [Page 318]

A. Composition and Functions of The General Staff and High
Command Group.

During the first World War there was an organization in the
German Armed Forces known as the Great General Staff. This
name persists in the public mind, but the Grosse Generalstab
no longer exists in fact. There has been no such single
organization, no single German General Staff, since 1918.
But there has of course been a group of men responsible for
the policy and acts of the Armed Forces. The fact that these
men have no collective name does not prevent us from
collecting them together. Men cannot escape the consequences
of their collective acts by combining informally instead of
formally. The essence of a general staff or a high command
lies not in name but in function. And the men comprised
within this group do constitute a functional group, welded
together by common responsibility, of those officers who had
the principal authority and responsibility under Hitler, for
the plans and operations of the German armed forces.

(1) Structure and Organization of the German Armed Forces.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933 the German Armed Forces
were controlled by a Reich Defense Minister, at that time
Field Marshall von Blomberg. Subordinate to von Blomberg
were the chiefs of the army staff (at that time von
Fritsch), and of the naval staff, the defendant Raeder.
Owing to the limitations imposed on Germany by the Treaty of
Versailles, the German Air Force at that time had no
official existence  whatsoever.

In May 1935, at the time that military conscription was
introduced in Germany, there was a change in the titles of
these offices but the structure remained basically the same.
Field Marshall von Blomberg remained in supreme command of

                                                  [Page 319]
 the armed forces with the title of Reich Minister for War
and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Von Fritsch
became Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and Raeder Commander-
in-Chief of the Navy. The army and naval staffs were renamed
"High Commands" -- Oberkommando des Heeres and Oberkommando
der Kriegsmarine, from which are derived the initials by
which they are usually known (OKH and OKM) .

The German Air Force came into official and open existence
at about this same time, but it was not put under von
Blomberg. It was an independent institution under the
personal command of Goering, who had the double title of Air
Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force.

In February 1938 a rather fundamental reorganization took
place, both in terms of personnel and organizational
structure. Although Raeder survived the reshuffle, von
Blomberg and von Fritsch were both retired from their
positions, and Blomberg's ministry, the War Ministry, was
wound up. This ministry had contained a division or
department called the Wehrmachtamt or "Armed Forces
Department," the function of which was to coordinate the
plans and operations of the Army and Navy. From this Armed
Forces Department was formed a new over-all Armed Forces
authority, known as the High Command of the Armed Forces --
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht -- usually known by the initials
OKW. As the Air Force as well as the Army and the Navy was
subordinated to OKW, coordination of all Armed Forces
matters was vested in the OKW, which was in effect Hitler's
personal staff for these matters. It combined staff and
ministerial functions. Keitel was appointed chief of the
OKW. The most important department of OKW was the operations
staff, of which Jodl became the chief. Jodl's immediate
subordinate was Warlimont, with the title of Deputy Chief of
The Armed Forces Operations Staff from 1941. (The genesis of
this department is explained in L-79.)

This reorganization and establishment of OKW were embodied
in a decree issued by Hitler on 4 February 1938 (1938 RGBl.,
5. Part I, page 111):

     "Command authority over the entire Armed forces is from
     now on exercised directly by me personally.
     "The Armed Forces Department in the Reich War Ministry
     with its functions becomes 'The High Command of the
     Armed Forces' and comes directly under my command as my
     military staff.
     "The head of the Staff of the High Command of the Armed
                                                  [Page 320]
     Forces is the Chief of the former Armed Forces
     Department, with the title of Chief of the High Command
     of the Armed Forces. His status is equal to that of
     Reich Minister.
     "The High Command of the Armed Forces also takes over
     the affairs of the Reich War Ministry. The Chief of the
     High Command of the Armed Forces as my representative
     exercises the functions hitherto exercised by the Reich
     War Minister.
     "The High Command of the Armed Forces is responsible in
     peace time for the unified preparation of the defense
     of the Reich in all areas according to my directives.
     "Berlin, 4 February 1938.
                           "The Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor
                                           "(S) Adolf Hitler
      "The Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery
                                            "(S) Dr. Lammers
              "Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces
                                                "(S) Keitel"

Under OKW were the supreme commands of the three branches of
the Armed Forces: OKH, OKM, and the Air Force, which did not
receive the official designation of Oberkommando der
Luftwaffe (OKL) until 1944. Raeder remained after 1938 as
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, and von Fritsch was replaced
by von Brauchitsch as Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
Goering continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. In
1941 von Brauchitsch was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of
the Army by Hitler himself, and Raeder was replaced as
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy by Doenitz early in 1943.
Goering continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force
until the last month of the war, when he was replaced by von

OKW, OKH, OKM and the Air Force each had its own staff.
These four staffs did not have uniform designations; in the
case of OKH, the staff was known as the Generalstab (General
Staff); in the case of OKW, it was known as the Fuehrungstab
(Operations Staff); but in all cases the functions were
those of a General Staff in military parlance. It will be
seen, therefore, that there was in this war no single German
General Staff, but rather four, one for each branch of the
service plus one for the OKW as the over-all interservice
supreme command.

Under OKH, OKL, and OKM were the various fighting formations
of the Army, Air Force and Navy respectively. The largest
army field formation was known to the Germans, as it is
among the nations generally, as an "army group". An Army
group was a headquarters controlling two or more "armies."
In some cases,

                                                  [Page 321]

e.g. in the campaigns in Norway and Greece where only one
army was used, "armies" were directly subordinated to OKH,
rather than to an "army group." Under the armies come the
lower field formations such as corps, divisions, regiments,

In the case of the German Air Force (OKL), the largest
formation was known as an "air fleet" (Luftflotte) and the
lower units under the air fleet were called "corps"
(Fliegerkorps or Jagdkorps) or "divisions"
(Fliegerdivisionen or Jagddivisionen).

Under OKM were the various "naval group commands," which
controlled all naval operations in a given area, with the
exception the operation of the high seas fleet and the
submarines, which their nature, were too mobile to be
restricted to an area command. The Commanders of the fleet
and submarines, and certain other specialized units, were
directly subordinate to the German Admiralty.

(2) Composition of. the Group Charged as Criminal. The group
charged in the Indictment (Appendix B) as criminal
comprises, first, German officers who held the top positions
in the four supreme commands described above; and second,
the officers who held the top field commands.

The holders of nine of the principal positions in the
supreme commands are included in the group. Four of these
are positions of supreme authority: the chief of the OKW,
the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, the Commander-in-Chief
of the Navy, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force.
Four other positions are those of the Chiefs of Staff to the
four Commanders-in-Chief: the Chief of the Operations Staff
of OKW, the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, the
Chief of the General Staff of the Air Force, and the Chief
of the Naval War Staff. The ninth position is that .of
Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff of OKW. The particular
responsibility of the holder of this office was planning,
and for this reason his office has been included in the

The group named in the Indictment comprises all individuals
who held any of these nine staff positions between February
1938 and the end of the war in May 1945. February 1938 was
selected as the opening date because it was in that month
that the top organization of the German Armed Forces was
reorganized and assumed substantially the form in which it
persisted up to the end of the war. Twenty-two different
individuals occupied these nine positions during that
period, of whom eighteen are still living.

With regard to the officers who held the principal field
commands, the Indictment includes as members of the group
all Commanders-in-Chief in the field who had the status of

                                                  [Page 322]

haber in the Army, Navy, or Air Force. The term
Oberbefehlshaber defies literal translation into English:
literally the components of the word mean "over-command-
holder," and it is perhaps best translated as Commander-in-
Chief. In the case of the Army, commanders of army groups
and armies always had the status and title of
Oberbefehlshaber. In the Air Force, the Commander-in-Chief
of air fleets always had the status of Oberbefehlshaber,
although they were not formally so designated until 1944. In
the Navy, officers holding the senior regional commands, and
therefore in control of all naval operations (other than of
the high seas fleet itself) in a given sector, had the
status of Oberbefehlshaber. Roughly 110 individual officers
had the status of Oberbefehlshaber in the Army, Navy, or Air
Force during the period in question, and all but
approximately a dozen of them are still alive.

The entire General Staff and High Command group as defined
in the Indictment comprises about 130 officers, of whom 114
are believed still to be living. These figures are the
cumulative total of all officers who at any time belonged to
the group during the seven years and three months from
February 1938 to May 1945 The number of active members of
the group at any one time is; of course, much smaller; it
rose from about 20 at the outbreak of the war to 50 in 1944
and 1945.

The structure and functioning of the German General Staff
and High Command group have been described in a series of
affidavits by some of the principal German field marshals
and generals A brief description of how these statements
were obtained may be helpful. In the first place two
American officers, selected for ability and experience in
interrogating high-ranking German prisoners of war, were
briefed by an Intelligence officer and a trial counsel on
the particular problems presented by this part of the case.
These interrogators were already well versed in military
intelligence and were able to converse fluently in German.
The officer who briefed these interrogators emphasized that
their function was objectively to inquire into and to
establish facts on which the prosecution wishes to be
accurately and surely informed; the interrogators were not
to regard themselves as cross-examiners. The German officers
to be interrogated were selected on the basis of the special
knowledge which they could be presumed to possess by reason
of positions held by them during the past generation. After
each interview the interrogator prepared a report. From this
report such facts as appeared relevant to the issues now
before the Tribunal were extracted and a statement embodying
these facts was prepared. This statement was then presented
to the officer at a later interview. It was presented in the
form of a draft and

                                                  [Page 323]

the officer was asked whether it truly reproduced what he
said at the previous interview. He was also invited to alter
it in any way he thought fit. This careful and laborious,
but necessary, process had as its object the procuring of
the best possible testimony in the form of carefully
considered statements.

These affidavits fully support the prosecution's description
of the group, and conclusively establish that this group of
officers was in fact the group which had the major
responsibility for planning and directing the operations of
the German Armed Forces.

The first of these affidavits is that of Franz Halder (3702-
PS) who held the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General),
the equivalent of a four-star general in the American Army.
Halder was chief of the General Staff of OKH from September
1938 to September 1942 and is, accordingly, a member of the
group. His statement reads:

     "Ultimate authority and responsibility for military
     affairs in Germany was vested in the Head of State who
     prior to 2 August 1934 was Field Marshall von
     Hindenburg and thereafter until 1945 was Adolf Hitler.
     "Specialized military matters were the responsibility
     of the three branches of the Armed Forces subordinate
     to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (at the
     same time Head of State), that is to say the Army, the
     Navy and the Air Force. In practice, supervision within
     this field was exercised by a relatively small group of
     high-ranking officers. These officers exercised such
     supervision in their official capacity and by virtue of
     their training, their positions and their mutual
     contacts. Plans for military operations of the German
     Armed Forces were prepared by members of this group
     according to the instructions of the OKW in the name of
     their respective Commanding Officers and were presented
     by them to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
     (at the same time Head of State).
     "The members of this group were charged with the
     responsibility of preparing for military operations
     within their competent fields and they actually did
     prepare for any such operations as were to be
     undertaken by troops in the field.
     "Prior to any operation, members of this group were
     assembled and given appropriate directions by the Head
     of State. Examples of such meetings are the speech by
     Hitler to the Commanders-in-Chief on 22 August 1939
     prior to the Polish campaign and the consultation at
     the Reich Chancellery on 14 June 1941 prior to the
     first Russian campaign. The com-
                                                  [Page 324]
     position of this group and the relationship of its
     members to each other were as shown in the attached
     chart. This was in effect the General Staff and High
     Command of the German Armed Forces."
                                      "(S) Halder" (3702-PS)

A substantially identical statement (3703-PS) was made by
von Brauchitsch, who held the rank of Field Marshall, and
who was Commander-in-Chief of the Army from 1938 to 1941.
Von Brauchitsch was also, therefore, a member of the group.
The only difference between the two statements is worth
noting occurs in the last sentence of each. Halder states
that the group described in the Indictment "was in effect
the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed
Forces," (3702-PS), whereas von Brauchitsch puts it a little
differently, saying "in the hands of those who filled the
positions shown in the chart lay the actual direction of the
Armed Forces." (3703-PS)

Both von Brauchitsch and Halder have stated under oath that
the General Staff chart (Chart Number 7) accurately portrays
the top organization of the German Armed Forces. The
statements by von Brauchitsch and Halder also fully support
the prosecution's statement that the holders of the
positions shown on this chart constitute the group in whom
lay the major responsibility for the planning and execution
of all Armed Forces matters.

Another affidavit by Halder (3707-PS) sets forth certain
less important matters of detail:

     "The most important department in the OKW was the
     Operations Staff -- in much the same way as the General
     Staff was in the Army and Air Force and the Naval War
     Staff in the Navy. Under Keitel there were a number of
     departmental chiefs who were equal in status with Jodl,
     but in the planning and conduct of military affairs
     they and their departments were less important and less
     influential than Jodl and Jodl's staff.
     "The OKW Operations Staff was also divided into
     sections. Of these the most important was the section
     of which Warlimont was chief. It was called the
     'National Defense' Section and was primarily concerned
     with the development of strategic questions. From 1941
     onwards Warlimont, though charged with the same duties,
     was known as Deputy Chief of the OKW Operations Staff.
     "There was during World War II no unified General Staff
     such as the Great General Staff which operated in World
     War I.
     "Operational matters for the Army and Air Force were
                                                  [Page 325]
     worked out by the group of high-ranking officers
     described in my Statement of 7 November (in the Army:
     'General Staff of the Army'; in the Air Force 'General
     Staff of the Air Force') .
     "Operational matters in the Navy were even in World War
     I not worked out by the 'Great General Staff' but by
     the Naval Staff."
     "( Signed ) Franz Halder" (3707-PS)

This affidavit is primarily concerned with the functions of
the General Staffs of the four Commanders of OKW, OKL, OKM,
and OKH and fully supports the inclusion of the Chiefs of
Staff of the four services in the indicted group, as well as
the inclusion of Warlimont as Deputy Chief of the OKW
Operations Staff, with his strategic planning

An affidavit (3708-PS) by the son of Field Marshal von
Brauchitsch, who had the rank of Oberst (Colonel) in the
German Air Force, and who was personal aide to Goering as
Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force, furnishes a few
details on the Luftwaffe:

     "Luftflottenchefs have the same status as the
     Oberbefehlshaber of an army. During the war they had no
     territorial authority and accordingly exercised no
     territorial jurisdiction.
     "They were the highest troop commanders of the air
     force units subordinate to them and were directly under
     the command of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force.
     "Until the summer of 1944 they bore the designation
     'Befehlshaber' and from then on that of
     'Oberbefehlshaber.' This change of designation carried
     with it no change in the functions and responsibilities
     which they previously had."
                            "(Signed) Brauchitsch" (3708-PS)

(3) Functioning of the General Staff and High Command group.
In many respects, the German military leaders functioned in
the same general manner as obtains in the military
establishments of other large nations. General plans were
made by the staff officers and their assistants at OKW, OKH,
OKL, and OKM, in collaboration with the field generals or
admirals who ere entrusted with the execution of the plans.
A decision to age a particular campaign would be made,
needless to say, at the highest level, and the making of
such a decision would involve Political and diplomatic
questions as well as purely military considerations. When
the decision was made, to attack Poland, for example, the
top staff officers in Berlin and their assistants would

                                                  [Page 326]

work out general military plans for the campaign. These
general plans would be transmitted to the Commanders of the
Army groups and Armies who were to be in charge of the
campaign. Consultation would follow between the top field
commanders and the top staff officers at OKW and OKH, and
the plans would be revised perfected, and refined in detail.

The manner in which the group worked, involving as it did
the interchange of ideas and recommendations between the top
staff officers at OKW and OKH and the principal field
commanders, is graphically described in two affidavits by
Field Marshall von Brauchitsch  (3705-PS):
                "STATEMENT OF 7 NOVEMBER 1945
     "In April 1939 I was instructed by Hitler to start
     military preparations for a possible campaign against
     Poland. Work was immediately begun to prepare an
     operational and deployment plan. This was then
     presented to Hitler and approved by him as amended by a
     change which he desired.
     "After the operational and deployment orders had been
     given to the two Commanders of the army groups and the
     five Commanders of the armies, conferences took place
     with them about details in order to hear their desires
     and recommendations.
     "After the outbreak of the war I continued this policy
     of keeping in close and constant touch with the
     Commanders-in-Chief of army groups and of armies by
     personal visits to their headquarters as well as by
     telephone, teletype or wireless. In this way I was able
     to obtain their advice and their recommendations during
     the conduct of military operations. In fact it was the
     accepted policy and common practice for the Commander-
     in-Chief of the Army to, consult his subordinate
     Commanders-in-Chief and to maintain a constant exchange
     of ideas with them. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army
     and his Chief of Staff communicated with army groups
     and, thru them as well as directly, with armies; thru
     army groups on strategical and tactical matters;
     directly on questions affecting supply and the
     administration of conquered territory occupied by these
     armies. An army group had no territorial jurisdiction.
     It had a relatively small staff which was concerned
     only with military operations. In all territorial
     matters it was the Commander-in-Chief of the army and
     not of the army group who exercised jurisdiction.
     "(Signed) von Brauchitsch" (3705-PS)

                                                  [Page 327]
       "SUPPLEMENT TO MY STATEMENT OF 7 November 1945
     "When Hitler had made a decision to support the
     realization of his political objectives through
     military pressure or through the application of
     military force, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, if
     he was at all involved, ordinarily first received an
     appropriate oral briefing or an appropriate oral
     "Operational and deployment plans were next worked out
     in the OKM. After these plans had been presented to
     Hitler, generally by word of mouth, and had been
     approved by him, there followed a written order from;
     the OKW to the three branches of the Armed Forces. In
     the meanwhile the OKH began to transmit the operational
     and deployment plans to the army groups and armies
     involved. Details of the operational and deployment
     plans were discussed by the OKH with the Commanders of
     the army groups and armies and with the Chiefs of Staff
     of these Commanders.
     "During the operations the OKH maintained a constant
     exchange of ideas with the army groups by means of
     telephone, radio and courier. The Commander-in-Chief of
     the Army used every opportunity to maintain a personal
     exchange of ideas with the Commanders of army groups,
     armies and lower echelons by means of personal visits
     to them. In the war against Russia the Commanders of
     army groups and of armies were individually and
     repeatedly called in by Hitler for consultation.
     "Orders for all operational matters went from the OKH
     to army groups and for all matters concerning supply
     and territorial jurisdiction from the OKH directly to
     the armies."
                        "(Signed) von Brauchitsch" (3705-PS)

The Oberbefehlshaber in the field, therefore and in the case
of the army that means the Commander-in-Chief of army groups
and armies -- participated in planning, and directed the
execution of the plans. The Oberbefehlshaber were also the
repositories of general executive power in the areas in
which their army groups and armies were operating. This fact
appears from a directive of 13 March 1941 signed by Keitel
and issued by the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (447-
PS). This directive sets out various regulations for the
impending operations against the Soviet Union (which were
actually begun on 22 June 1941). Under paragraph I, is
entitled "Area of operations and executive power
(Vollziehende Gewalt)", subparagraph 1 and 2 (a) provide:

     "It is not contemplated to declare East Prussia and the
                                                  [Page 328]
     eral-Gouvernement an area of operations. However, in
     accordance with the unpublished Fuehrer orders from 19
     and 21 October 1939, the Commander in Chief of the Army
     shall be authorized to take all measures necessary for
     the execution of his military aim and for the
     safeguarding of the troops. He may transfer his
     authority onto the Commanders in Chief
     [Oberbefehlshaber] of the Army Groups and Armies.
     Orders of that kind have priority over all orders
     issued by civilian agencies."
     "The area of operations created through the advance of
     the Army beyond the frontiers of the Reich and the
     neighboring countries is to be limited in depth as far
     as possible. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army has the
     right to exercise the executive power [Vollziehende
     Gewalt] in this area, and may transfer his authority
     onto the Commanders in Chief [Oberbefehlshaber] of the
     Army Groups and Armies." (447-PS)

The official command invitation to participate in
consultations at the Reich Chancellery on 14 June 1941,
eight days prior to the German attack on the Soviet Union,
also shows the group at work (C-78). This meeting is
referred to in the last paragraph of the affidavits by
Halder (3702-PS) and von Brauchitsch (3703-PS) mentioned
above. This document, signed by Colonel Schmundt, Chief
Wehrmacht Adjutant to Hitler, and is dated at Berchtesgaden,
9 June 1941, begins:

     "Re: Conference 'Barbarossa'
     "The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
     has ordered reports on Barbarossa [the code name for
     the invasion of the U.S.S.R.] by the Commanders of Army
     Groups and Armies and Naval and Air Commanders of equal

This document likewise includes a list of the participants
in this conference which closely parallels the structure of
the group as set forth in the Indictment. The list includes
General Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, who was then
Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and a member of the group;
and General Halder, who was chief of the Army Staff, and a
member of the group. Then there are three subordinates who
were not members of the group: Paulus, Heusinger, and
Gyldenfeldt. Next is navy Captain Wagner, who was chief of
the Operations Staff, Operations Division of the Naval War
Staff, not a member of the group. On the air side there were
General Milch, State Secretary and Inspector of the Air
Force, again not a member of the group; General Joschonnek,
chief of the General Staff of the Air Force and a member of
the group;

                                                  [Page 329]

and two of his assistants. Passing to the OKW, High Command
of the Armed Forces, we find that Keitel, Jodl, Warlimont,
all members of the group, were present, with an assistant
from the General Staff. Then there were four officers from
the office of the adjutant, who were not members of the
group. Present from the Field Commanders were General von
Falkenhorst, Army High Command, Norway, member of the group;
General Stumpff, Air Fleet 5, member of the group;
Rundstedt, Reichenau, Stuelpnagel, Schobert, Kleist, all
from the Army, all members of the group. Of the Air Force
officers present, General Loehr, Air Fleet 4, was a member
of the group; General Fromm and General Udet were not
members. One was director of the Home Forces, commander of
the Home Forces, and the other the Director General of
Equipment and Supply. Turning to the Navy, those present
were Raeder, a member of the group; Fricke, chief of the
Naval War Staff, and a member of the group; and an assistant
who was not a member, Carls, Navy Group North, member of
the group, and likewise Schmundt were present. Then from the
Army, Leeb, Busch, Kuechler, all members of the group as
Oberbefehlshaber, and Keller, a member of the group, were
present. Also Bock, Kluge, Strauss, Guderian, Hoth,
Kesselring, all members of the group, were present. It will
be seen that, except for a few assisting officers of
relatively junior rank, all the participants in these
consultations were members of the group, and that in fact
the participants in these consultations included the members
of the group who were concerned in the impending operations
against the Soviet Union.

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